Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Think Big

10 Years, 10,000 Hours, or 3 Hours Per Day. That is how long it takes to develop an elite level athlete.  Many gymnasts (and their parents!) have high aspirations in the sport.  The level of commitment by gymnastics families is matched by few sports.  However, achieving greatness requires a more refined approach than a crazed obsession with reaching the next level in the shortest time possible.

All the gymnastics gyms I have been involved with have a set skill list, maybe some strength and conditioning reps that must be met and flexibility goals to be met when determining if a gymnast can be moved to the next level. The entire system is linear and has a plow ahead to the next level as fast as possible mentality.

An athlete development plan needs to be in place at gymnastics clubs taking this into consideration for all gymnasts in developmental programs. It needs to be a system wide approach and parents have to believe in it. And, no level 4 medals are not the goal. Instead of taking such a linear skill approach, I believe we need to look toward our Canadian neighbors to the north and pick target times in a gymnast’s development to work on different aspects of athletic development.  By aligning training emphases with developmental strengths, kids are given the best chance to succeed.  

This model is why I am against lumping kids together by current skill level 100% of the time. A ten year old level 5 is in a much different place than a seven year old level 5, even though they might have the exact same gymnastics skill set. With every window an athlete misses, their ultimate performance potential is limited. A 12 year old who never reaches their max speed development will never again have the same opportunity to develop their speed. As their gymnastics career progresses. This will only hurt them as their skill set gets harder and more speed is needed for tumbling or vault.

Parents can look at the accredited adaptation model in terms of investment strategy.  An investment with a high rate of return today might have a lower return in the future.  Investing in most fields is difficult because we don’t know how market trends will evolve.  The great thing about the LTAD model is it gives you an answer key as to where the highest rates of return will come!  Unfortunately, too many coaches, athletes, and parents have such an emotional attachment to reaching the next level NOW to consider the big picture.


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